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It was great to meet the other Indian Fulbrighters and their families at the Fulbright conference.

The Indian Fulbright conference takes place every Thanksgiving weekend. The US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) sponsors it for people who are in India for the fall semester. Many Fulbright India grants are for the spring, and there's another, larger South Asian conference then. These conferences are a mix of bright, creative students, scholars, and schoolteachers. And a few dependents, like me.

The people came from very diverse backgrounds and life stages. For example, a panel on "Being a Cultural Ambassador" included the following: A dynamic mid-fifties widow, traveling to schools around India, lecturing on strategies for teaching blind and visually-impaired students. An Indian-American art scholar with a six-month-old child, documenting the Chennai art museum's formation of Indian cultural identity. A fortysomething Haitian immigrant and science teacher; her late-teenage son has brown skin that often lets him pass for Indian. A bright, recent college graduate of East Asian descent, teaching English in a Delhi government school. And the lone (first-ever) Fulbright scholar to Bhutan, an Oklahoman professor studying tobacco policy and also happening to be the highest official American presence in that country.

I only attended one presentation session. There were a couple different tracks, and it was well-organized so the technical topics were grouped together. Michael led off with his presentation, telling how he's inserted critical design thinking into the Indian examination-based system that rewards rote memorization. Another participant described the growing Indian biotech industry, and how it's being limited by a severe lack of venture capital; he's now working with the government to try to create something like an Indian NIH. Another scholar, one of the other two computer science professors, gave a very interesting talk on how he had adapted a chemistry-based peer learning approach. He is also teaching students to contribute to Free and Open-Source Software. I asked him how they felt working in the FOSS community, since sometimes open-source can be rather insular and male-American-dominant. He replied that like India, there is a huge diversity in open-source software projects; you just have to find the right community. I agreed, and mentioned DreamWidth (the very blog I'm writing this on), as one such safe place.

The best part of the conference was talking one-on-one with the other people. They're very bright people doing fascinating work. Nora, the teacher for blind students, described the astonished reactions when she tells of Jacob Bolotin, the blind, American heart/lung doctor--in 1912. And Kim, a biology teacher on a teacher-exchange, described how she challenges her students to find their intelligence among the eight different types of intelligence. She also spoke of some of the economic struggles in her rural Oregon hometown, which echo the tribulations of my childhood town in rural Michigan. We also chatted at length with the Bhutan scholar, who is as nice as he is interesting; we had a great speculative discussion ranging from Bhuddist causality in economic systems to science fiction to modern Middle East politics.

We also traded stories of gender experiences in India. One woman, a feminist scholar in Delhi, was passionately fired up about the "Eve-teasing" problems there. Another, a young mother, had colleagues who felt she was neglecting her child (who was with his father during the day). I shared my surprise at the numerous stay-at-home faculty moms in north Gujarat, who have the same engineering degrees as their husbands but never use them. Yet another mentioned how she had invited the professors from her institution over to drink a toast to her late father-in-law when he passed away. None of them showed up, and they apologized the next day that men do not drink alcohol in front of women. Overall, it sounds like there's somewhat more gender equality in South India and the cities. It's still a far cry from America.

I talked with some of the other dependents, too. There were several families with elementary-age children or younger. A handful of us spouses/partners are working. One is working for the Clinton Foundation; she's helping clinics reduce mother-to-child AIDS transmission from 50% to 1% with the right drugs. Another is a computer engineer, working at IBM in Bangalore. A few other spouses, who are also faculty on their sabbaticals, are working on grant proposals. One or two moms volunteer at their children's schools or just deal with running the household.

Michael and I knew that living in our small town was better than we'd expected. Now, talking with others, we really appreciate Visnagar and the college. USIEF likes sending people to small towns, because they'll be appreciated there and well cared-for. Many of the researchers who went to big cities had to struggle with day-to-day problems; they were put in moldy living quarters, or their host institutions didn't give them an office for two months. Some of the students just go home at night and hole up in their dorm rooms; they're totally missing the broader experience of living here. The more mature people are better able to deal with the idiosyncracies of Indian life. That group includes Michael and me, though we're barely in our 30s. I think it helps to have the right attitude, of going out and embracing another culture.

In between meals, I teleworked from the hotel room. Most of it was offline; the Internet access cost 100 rupees an hour, and it was down for a couple days. I was especially productive Thanksgiving day, when almost everyone else went off to visit a temple. It's not very exciting to write formatting requirements for reports, but it beats spending four hours on a bus; I'm about done with long over-land travel. Michael went, and he said it was nice but not worth the long bus ride.

We enjoyed Pondicherry in the evenings. That'll be a separate blog entry when I can link to pictures.

Thanksgiving day ended with a banquet and dance. We went to a different hotel, with a rocky beach by the ocean, with an outdoor dance floor. Michael and I wore traditional Indian dress. I heard several compliments on how handsome Michael looked. Several of us women dresed in saris, though most wore nice salwar kameezes or dresses with knee-length or longer skirts. Most of the men wore Western suit jackets but very few ties. The gay couple were especially handsome in their wedding-fancy kurta pajamas. Everyone mostly stood around and mingled, sipping cocktails and wine, until the food was finally served. Yes, there was turkey, but in a curry sauce. The fish was great though. The dance followed. Nobody danced to the American dance tunes, but almost everyone joined in once they started playing Indian music. I tried some traditional Indian dance moves and apparently kept enough rhythm that Michael didn't recognize me at first, across the dance floor. It was a fun way to wrap up the conference.

By coincidence, this was an auspicious time to have a Fulbright event. Just this week, the Indian overnment signed an agreement with the U.S., to double the number of Fulbright grants to India. The local Deccan newspaper even reported it, and they didn't know we were in town. If you're a teacher or researcher and interested, this is a great year to apply. They haven't increased the publicity much, so your chances of getting in might be better this year (they're currently about one-in-ten for student researchers, and slightly higher for faculty and teachers). They're especially interested in science and technology; nothing in the legislation says so, but it's how the diplomats discussed it. They'll still have plenty of openings for their traditional strengths of English teachers and social/cultural researchers. It's a wonderful experience.
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SPCE issued a press release and held a press conference for their visiting American scholar. The local Visnagar newspapers attended.  Several people made speeches or statements, apparently including Michael (though I wasn't around to see that one). The story will be printed sometime in the next few days.  The article will be in the vernacular Gujarati, so Professor Hiren has offered to provide a translation.  The reporters called Hiren on Saturday during lunch, asking him for more information on the Fulbright-Nehru exchange program.

Today (Monday) there was a TV news crew for the Gujarat state news.  They interviewed Michael briefly on videotape, along with the SPCE principal (Dr. L.N. Patel).  They also asked to tape Michael teaching a class. He'd already delivered two lectures that day, so he pretended to teach a class--he preempted an operating systems lab, and taught the students how to remove all the files on a disk recursively.  They'll have the segments on the Gujarati news channel tomorrow morning at 11.
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We were literally welcomed with flowers.  Sankalchand Patel College of Engineering (SPCE) is very glad to have Michael here. Our first day was full of welcoming meeetings and greetings.

Thursday night, we flew from Delhi to Ahmedabad--the largest city in Gujarat.  Michael's faculty coordinator, Professor Hiran Patel, was waiting at the airport with a big sign with my husband's name.  He and the driver loaded our luggage into a large Chevy labeled Noonan Dental College (it shares the same campus as SPCE).  Professor Hiren Patel and the driver gave us each a decorated package of flowers as a welcome gift.  We had about a two-hour ride to the campus and Visnagar. Michael and Hiren and I chatted a bit (the driver didn't appear to speak English). I think Hiren was a little surprised that we had been to India before. However, we had been to the tourist sites. Now, we were going to rural Gujarat, where very few non-Indians go. It's almost all new to us.

Our faculty coordinator and personal host, Professor Hiren, is young, enthusiastic, bright, positive, and completely fluent in American English. He is very open and honest, as well as knowledgeable about his culture and ours. Hiren had personally initiated the process of applying to the Fulbright-Nehru scholar exchange program, and pursued it through the two-year application process.  He and the college have never had a visiting foreign scholar before, and they are anxious to make us feel welcome.  Hiren and his family spent a couple years living and working in Birmingham Alabama, so he has experience with the United States; his colleagues regard him as their resident expert on Americans and American culture. Now he teaches networks and security at SPCE; he is the head of the computer engineering and information technology departments as well as running the college's IT services. He is also finishing his PhD dissertation in network security (border gateway protocols). I don't know where he finds the time to help us so much, but we are immensely glad and grateful to have such a warm, tremendously helpful guide.

On Friday morning, the college held a small welcoming reception for Michael. We had coffee and cookies with the college's president. There was a faculty gathering Friday morning, where each of the college's department heads stood and introduced themselves.  They presented us with two more packages of flowers each. I was invited to all of these too, though I mainly sat to the side. The faculty are mainly young men in their mid-30s. The department heads included even the dental and MBA graduate schools. The president and principal are traditional, older men and wear white kurtas and lungis like Gandhi wore. The younger faculty members dress in modern polo or button-down shirts and trousers.

Michael's office is several large desks in one end of their totally modern conference room. They set up a desktop computer for him there too.  Michael's favorite feature is a coffee button, where he can press a buzzer and someone will arrive with fresh Indian chai coffee (made with thickened milk and cardamom/spices). They invited me to telework from there too; I will see how it goes with internet in our apartment.

The campus is stunningly beautiful, with tropical flowers and palm plants everywhere. (I promise to post pictures soon.) We're still in monsoon season, so it's very hot and humid. We have air-conditioned living quarters; more about that later.
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Mainly for my reference.

To Do
- vaccinations: polio, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, typhoid fever, MMR
- fax vaccination form to UM
- figure out payment for fall semester class
x international driver's license
- glasses
- refill allergy prescriptions
- Malaria tablets
- vitamins
- acidophilious pills
- CAC reader
- sandals
- letter from doctor's office listing all prescriptions
- check climate statistics for Gujarat
- return shirts to JCP

To scan and send to gmail account
- Passport, visa
- international driver's license
- birth certificate
- US driver's license
- Credit cards (cover up expiration date)

Carry-On Items
- Contact info for in-country contact people: office, home, work, personal cell, personal email, facebook, gmail, instant messenger, whatever other info we can get
- 3 days worth of clothes
- Special clothes:
--- suit
--- shawl
- meds: benadryl, imodium
- Prescriptions in original packaging
- Letter from doctor on letterhead listing prescriptions
- small plane-friendly first-aid kit, no sharp instruments
- sunscreen, toothpaste, toiletries, dental floss
- extra passport photos
- Copies of documents
- blank books/journals
- everybody's contact info from home (for sending postcards)
- Printed photos of family and friends (for showing Indian hosts)

Checked baggage
- UV water purifier gadget
- sunglasses
- pillows
- sunscreen
- toothpaste
- deodorant
- DEET mosquito spray
- mosquito netting
- shampoo
- conditioner
- detangler x2
- hand sanitizer jug x2
- toilet paper
- razors, 1 pk
- nail clipper
- scissors
- blank notebook/composition book
x feminine products
- panties
- bras
- nightwear
- shirts
x black slacks
x belts
- shoes/sandals
x comfort insoles
x can opener
x small grater
x windbreaker jacket
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Here's some Frequently Asked Questions about our India trip.

Q: Are you really moving to India?
A: Yes. For about three months, September through November. Then we're coming back to our home in the U.S.

Q: Why are you going to India?
A: My husband, Michael, is going as a Fulbright Scholar. He will be teaching computer science at an engineering school in Gujarat (northwest India) on behalf of the U.S. State Department. I'm going along with him because I couldn't resist the opportunity, and we'd miss each other.

Q: What part of India is that?
A: Western India; Gujarat, northwest of Mumbai (Bombay). We'll be relatively near Ahmedabad, on the rural edge of the small city of Visnagar.

Q: Are you going the whole time?
A: Yes. All three months.

Q: Will you be blogging or posting pictures?
A: Yes. I plan to be writing in depth on my DreamWidth blog, cross-posting to LiveJournal for my friends there, and posting links to pictures. I don't know about Twitter or other streams yet. I will post some on FaceBook too.

Q: Do I need a DreamWidth account to read about your trip?
A: No. I plan to leave almost all my India posts public. You can still get an OpenID account, but right now I'm not locking much down.

Q: What about your job?
A: I'll be telecommuting full time. My company is absolutely awesome and they've been terrific at accommodating this. I plan to continue working my tail off, doing software requirements and related work.

Q: What about your husband's job?
A: He has a sabbatical for the fall semester.

Q: What about your house? Your pets?
A: My sister is house-sitting for us and looking after the pets.

Q: Are you taking the semester off from grad school?
A: Yes. I start again in the spring.

Q: Can you send me a postcard?
A: Sure! Send me a message with your current address.

Q: Can people come visit you in India?
A: Sure! We'll have a guest house there. Just let us know in advance.
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We move to rural India in two weeks. Or less. Or maybe more? We still don't have definite dates; the bureaucrats are still ordering the one-way plane tickets. We've asked to leave August 28 or later and have a two-day layover in Paris. Then hopefully we'll have a day or so of in-country orientation in Delhi before moving to the host university's guest house. Michael starts teaching around the first of September. Indian school-year semesters vary by region, and they don't line up with the traditional US school year. Overall, it seems like they're much more flexible about class schedules or just dates in general.

Speaking of flexible, my amazing company is letting me telecommute! We can keep paying our mortgage and I don't neglect my teammates. I will be keeping busy, helping finish the major software project I've been working on for a year. It's work that can mostly be done offline if needed, so if a stray cow knocks out the internet for half a day, it'll be OK. Our CTO also gave approval to start writing a company standard-requirements document for usability and best practices. So that'll give me a fun back-burner project to work on when the acronyms are driving me buggy.

I have precious little time to pack. My second summer class ends this week. My final presentation (50 minutes long) on how to evaluate Business Intelligence software is on Saturday. Sunday is our take-home final exam. The final project report is due Monday. I'm still almost a week behind, since I didn't have much internet access on my recent business trip. So tonight I will be working hard (the prof gave me an extension, but I don't want to push it). The class has still been great; terrific, practical information on usability engineering. I already applied some of it at the users' group meeting a couple weeks ago.

Enough procrastinating. Must go do work. Ack!
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The Fulbright orientation has been the past few days in downtown DC. I went with my husband to several sessions before and after work. We've learned about all kinds of stuff - staying safe abroad, medical concerns, what to pack, what to expect, security, and how to dress and act to avoid looking like targets. There are hundreds of people at this training; people are going to south/central Asia, Middle east, and Africa. The vast majority of people there are students, very recent college graduates or PhD students, mostly in the social sciences. There are also quite a few medical and public health people. Of the 140 people going to India, only about 40 are scholars like my husband; and most of those are researchers.

The session panelists, Fulbright alumni, say it will be a life-changing experience. The people we will meet will show amazing hospitality and we'll gain a deep appreciation of their culture. And all the panelists have been saying nothing will go like we plan; there will be problems - mostly small - and we just have to deal with them and accept it. The reliability and follow-through you expect from American daily life and business, is just not there. It will be replaced by an emphasis on personal relationships, relaxing, and coping with discomfort.

We've run into one problem already - we know we're going, but not exactly *when*. My husband is applying for an entry visa, to allow him to teach. India normally requires research scholars to wait 4 weeks before entering country, holding their passports, to be sure researchers' plans have time to go through the approval process. Michael will be a lecturer, just teaching, so he theoretically shouldn't have that problem. The visa office has told him so. The host university has told him so. Everyone in any official capacity has told him it's fine. But. As of yesterday, the Indian official in charge of the Fulbright program over there is convinced that Michael must have a 4-week waiting period. I met the official yesterday, and he seems like a reasonable guy, but he's absolutely sticking on this 4-week waiting period. So it could be August 1, September 1, or anytime later.

The very good news is that my job looks like it will work out. Did I mention I love my company? No details are settled yet, but it looks like I will be able to keep working and contributing, telecommuting. I'm taking the first week or so as vacation anyway, to give a few days to settle in and get the Internet and electricity hooked up. We'll see.

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